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Bahrain holds 12 after street protests, arson

Crowds burnt tyres and hurled petrol bombs to protest the arrest of Shi'ite activists.

August 21, 2010 2:11 by

Bahraini authorities detained 12 people on sabotage and arson charges, a security official was quoted on Saturday as saying, after crowds burnt tyres and hurled petrol bombs to protest the arrest of Shi’ite activists.

The protests, which took place on Friday, were triggered by the arrest of a total of eight Shi’ite activists and clerics during the week ahead of parliamentary elections in the Gulf Arab island kingdom.

“They set tyres, garbage skips, empty water tanks and private property on fire, in addition to hurling firebombs on roads,” Bahrain’s Gulf Daily News quoted an unnamed security official as saying.

The newspaper said protesters damaged an electricity substation, causing power outages for several hours.

Bahrain is governed by a Sunni ruling family but has a majority Shi’ite population that complains of discrimination in jobs and services. The government denies the accusation.

The sectarian balance of Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, also concerns top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, which has a Shi’ite minority population in its Eastern Province adjacent to Bahrain.

Diplomats say the arrests appeared to be an effort to push the Shi’ite opposition to temper protests ahead of parliamentary elections due on Oct. 23.

Bahrain has the only elected parliament in the Gulf Arab region besides Kuwait, even though its powers are limited as bills need to be approved by an upper house whose members are appointed by the king.

(Reporting by Firouz Sedarat; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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